Medical Malpractice & the Doctor Patient Relationship

Medical Malpractice & the Doctor Patient Relationship

by / Wednesday, 22 September 2021 / Published in Medical Malpractice
Doctor talking with patient.

In medical malpractice cases, doctor-patient relationships are a very important part of the claim. The very existence of a doctor-patient relationship is one of the most basic things you’ll need to prove in order to move forward with a malpractice lawsuit. 

What is a Doctor-Patient Relationship?

In the legal sense, a doctor-patient relationship means that a doctor and a patient have actively engaged in a direct, professional relationship with each other. This can mean that the patient sought out treatment from the doctor, the doctor accepted them as a patient, and the patient directly received care from the doctor. Entering into this relationship means the doctor owes a legal duty of care to the patient. However, in some situations, there can be some gray areas about whether or not a doctor-patient relationship existed.

With this definition of a doctor-patient relationship, that means you cannot make a medical malpractice claim over things like medical advice taken from websites like WebMD, television, social media, or from people you meet in passing — even if that person is a doctor. 

Does a Good Doctor-Patient Relationship Prevent Medical Malpractice?

Very often, when people think about the relationship they have with any doctors  they see, they think about it in terms of the quality of care they receive and how comfortable they feel with their doctor. Is the doctor listening to any questions a patient has and clearly answering them? Is the doctor adequately explaining medical conditions and treatments and providing information about any risks and benefits involved? Does the doctor return calls in a timely manner? All of these things are part of a good doctor-patient relationship and the quality of that relationship can impact the quality of patient care. 

In an article published in the AMA Journal of Ethics, it’s noted that the malpractice environment is largely driven by failures in the doctor-patient relationship, particularly when it comes to communication. Poor communication is one of the most commonly cited contributing factors in medical malpractice cases. 

For example, the concept of informed consent is a crucial part of patient care. Informed consent means that doctors need to provide patients information about medical treatments and procedures, including possible risks and complications, so that patients can decide for themselves about whether or not they want to undergo that treatment/procedure. If a patient suffers an adverse reaction because the doctor didn’t fully warn them about side effects, that could be considered malpractice. Or, in many birth trauma cases, there can be poor communication between various medical professionals attending to a birth.

Should I Change Doctors?

If you don’t feel like you have a good doctor-patient relationship with your physician, whether it’s because of poor communication or generally not feeling comfortable with their practices, that’s a very good reason to consider finding another doctor to see instead. It’s very important to have a  doctor who you feel like you can trust and who makes you feel educated and informed. 

Get Help from a Michigan Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Cases involving medical malpractice can be very complex. If you have been harmed by a medical error, you need a medical malpractice lawyer on your side who knows the law and isn’t afraid to hold people accountable. At Goodwin & Scieszka, you can talk to a Michigan lawyer who is experienced in handling a wide range of medical malpractice cases, including birth trauma cases. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

Image: iStock / LightFieldStudios

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